|Publication number||US5167505 A|
|Application number||US 07/616,433|
|Publication date||Dec 1, 1992|
|Filing date||Nov 21, 1990|
|Priority date||Nov 21, 1990|
|Publication number||07616433, 616433, US 5167505 A, US 5167505A, US-A-5167505, US5167505 A, US5167505A|
|Inventors||Bonnie J. Walsh|
|Original Assignee||Walsh Bonnie J|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (12), Referenced by (19), Classifications (12), Legal Events (5)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
The present invention relates to educational aids and methods for teaching mathematical and pattern recognition skills to young children.
Even the simplest elements of mathematics as used by adults incorporate significant abstract concepts. For example, the simple operation of counting the items in two groups of items to determine which group has more items implicitly requires understanding of abstract ideas such as what is meant by a number and the concept that one number can be greater or less than another. Likewise, the statement that one group of items includes 8 items requires understanding of the concept that the symbol "8" stands for a particular number and some concept of where that number lies in the order of numbers, i.e., that the number eight is more than seven but less than nine. These concepts are so rudimentary that adults typically employ them without conscious thought, and without ever considering that they have learned these concepts.
These concepts are not inborn, but in fact must be learned by each child during his or her development, typically at the age of about three years to about five years. The child must master these concepts before he or she can begin to grasp more complex ideas such as addition and subtraction. Because the children studying these rudimentary concepts are so young, they typically have very limited attention spans. Educational aids for use with this age group should have features which inherently attract the child's attention. They should constantly challenge the child without presenting a task which is too difficult for the child, leading to frustration and resentment. Thus it is important to present concepts progressively, continually building upon concepts which have previously been taught. Moreover, educational aids should be inexpensive, durable and safe. They should be simple in concept and in execution so that the teacher can concentrate on teaching rather than on operating the aid.
All of these requirements taken together present a formidable problem. Although considerable effort and expense have been devoted to development of educational aids and teaching methods, there has been a substantial need, prior to the present invention, for still further improvements in educational aids for teaching basic mathematical and pattern recognition concepts, and a corresponding need for improvements in methods of teaching these concepts.
The present invention addresses these needs.
One aspect of the present invention provides an educational aid including a plurality of groups of game pieces, each such group including a different number of game pieces. Typically ten groups of game pieces are provided, the first such grouping including one piece, the second, two pieces, and so on through the tenth group which includes ten pieces. The game pieces, also referred to as "manipulatives", may have indicia on them. The game pieces in each group have the same indicia, whereas the game pieces in different groups have different indicia. The indicia on the game pieces may be as simple as the color of the game pieces, a particular color being associated with each group such that all of the pieces in each group are of the same color whereas pieces in other groups are of other colors. The educational aid includes at least one matching target defining a plurality of matching target areas, each such matching target area being associated with one of the groups of game pieces. Each matching target area has indicia thereon denoting the associated group of game pieces. The indicia on the various matching target areas most preferably include indicia at several different levels of abstraction. For example, the indicia on the matching target areas may include colors corresponding to the colors for the various groups of game pieces, and may also include sets of marks, the number of marks in each such set corresponding to one of the game pieces in one of the groups. The indicia on the matching target areas may further include numerals denoting the numbers of game pieces in the various groups.
The matching target areas and the game pieces desirably are constructed and arranged so that the game pieces can be positioned on the various matching target areas. Thus at an early learning stage, the child can match game pieces of the various groups to the appropriate matching target areas using colors, which require only a very low level of abstract reasoning. At a higher level the child may associate the various groups with the appropriate matching target areas by matching the quantity of pieces in the various groups to the quantities of marks in the various sets. At a still higher level the child may match to the corresponding numerals.
The matching targets desirably include at least one substrate having a plurality of matching target areas, each with the appropriate indicia. The matching target areas on such a substrate desirably are arranged spatially in an order corresponding to the numerical order in the numbers of pieces in the associated groups. Thus, matching target areas may be arranged such that the matching target area associated with a one-piece group precedes the matching target area associated with a two-piece group, and so on. The matching targets may also include auxiliary matching target pieces formed separately from the substrate. Each such auxiliary matching target may be associated with one group of game pieces and may have indicia thereon associated with only that group of game pieces. Thus, the pieces of each group may be matched to one of the auxiliary matching targets as well as to one of the matching target areas on the substrate. Desirably, the auxiliary matching targets, game pieces and substrate are constructed and arranged so that the game pieces may be positioned either on the auxiliary matching targets or on the matching target areas of the substrate, and so that the auxiliary matching targets, with or without the game pieces thereon, may be positioned on the matching target areas of the substrate. This provides for a unique and particularly instructive multiple step matching procedure, in which the child can first match the pieces of a group to a particular auxiliary matching target and then match that auxiliary target to the appropriate target area of the substrate.
Preferred educational aids according to the invention can provide a series of progressively more challenging experiences to the child, each building upon the skills learned in the previous experience. The education content and play value of the aid do not depend upon any complex mechanical or electronic elements. Accordingly, preferred educational aids according to this aspect of the present invention can be simple and economical.
These and other objects, features and advantages of the present invention will be more readily apparent from the detailed description of the preferred embodiments set forth below, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.
FIG. 1 is a diagrammatic view showing elements of an educational aid in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 2 is a further diagrammatic view showing certain of the elements in the educational aid of FIG. 1, but in a different position.
Each of FIGS. 3, 4, 5, and 6 is a further diagrammatic view illustrating a different step in educational method utilizing the educational aid of FIGS. 1 and 2.
An educational aid in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention includes a plurality of game pieces or manipulatives 20, the game pieces being provided in ten different groups. Each group incorporates a different number of game pieces. The numbers of game pieces in the various groups correspond to the integers 1-10. Thus a first group 22 includes one game piece 20a; and second group 24 includes two game pieces 20b, third group 26 includes three game pieces 20c and so on up through the tenth group 28 which incorporates 10 game pieces 20d. Several of the groups of game pieces, with six through nine game pieces, are omitted from FIG. 1 for clarity of illustration. The game pieces are all of the substantially identical size and shape. As illustrated, each game piece 20 may be a common clothespin having first and second movable elements 30 and 32 and a spring 34 biasing the moveable elements to a normal, closed position. The game pieces desirably are provided with decorations such as simulated eyes 36 so as to make them resemble small animals or "creatures" . The game pieces are also provided with indicia in the form of a color covering each game piece except in the area covered by the eyes 36. The colors of the various game pieces are uniform within each group, but each different group of game pieces has a different color. The colors utilized for the various groups as game pieces may be as follows:
TABLE I______________________________________Number ofPieces inGroup Color______________________________________1 White2 Dark Green3 Yellow4 Blue5 Orange6 Black7 Purple8 Pink9 Light Green10 Red______________________________________
Thus, a particular color is associated with a particular group of game pieces and hence with the particular number of game pieces in that group. For example, white is associated with group 22 having one game piece and with the number 1; dark green is associated with group 24 having two game pieces and so on.
The educational aid further includes a substrate 38 in the form of a flexible cloth mat about 30 cm by about 70 cm. Substrate or mat 38 has a first surface 40, visible in FIG. 1. Surface 40 has 10 matching target areas spaced apart from one another. Each such matching target area is provided with a set of marks 42. The number of marks in such set is a different integer. Thus, a first matching target area 44 has only one mark 42. A second matching target area 46 has two marks and so on, up through a tenth matching target area 48 having 10 marks. Thus, each matching target area on surface 40 is associated with a particular number equal to the number of marks in that matching target area. Each matching target area therefore is associated with the corresponding group of game pieces having that particular number of game pieces. For example, matching target area 44 is associated with the integer one and hence with game piece group 22 having one game piece; matching target area 46 having two marks 42 is associated with the integer two and thus associated with group 24 having two game pieces and so on through matching target area 48 having 10 marks, associated with the number 10 and hence associated with group 28 having 10 game pieces.
The matching target areas on surface 40 of substrate 38 are arranged in numerical order according to the numbers associated with the various matching target areas and hence according to the numbers of marks in the sets of marks within the various matching target areas. Thus, starting from the matching target area 44 associated with the lowest number, movement around the peripheral of surface 40 in the clockwise direction as seen in FIG. 1 encounters matching target areas associated with progressively higher numbers until reaching the highest numbered matching target area 48. Surface 40 is provided with directional indicia in the form of arrows 57 indicating the direction of the ordered arrangement of matching target areas, i.e. the direction from lower to higher areas.
The marks 42 in the various sets are all of uniform size, shape, and color, preferably small squares or circles of a color contrasting with the color of surface 40. Within each set of marks, the marks 42 are arranged in pairs and single marks. Matching target area 44 includes only a single mark 44. The two marks 42 in matching target area 46 are arranged side by side, whereas the three marks 42 in the next matching target area 50 are arranged with one pair of marks 42a and 42b side by side and the third mark 42c standing alone. Next matching target area 52 has two pairs of marks, whereas matching target area 54 associated with the number 5 has two pairs of marks 42d and a single mark 42e standing alone and unpaired. All of the sets of marks 42 with even numbers of marks have all of their marks in pairs, whereas any set of marks including an odd number of marks has one mark standing alone. This pattern facilitates recognition of even and odd numbers. Substrate 38 has a second face (not shown) which does not have marks or other indicia denoting numbers. Both surfaces of the substrate may be decorated to make them interesting to the child. Where the game pieces resemble creatures, the decorations on the substrate may suggest an environment for the creatures, such as a forest or lake.
The educational aid further includes a set of 10 auxiliary matching targets 60, some of which are illustrated in FIG. 1 and FIG. 2. Each auxiliary matching target 60 is a small cloth disk about 10 cm in diameter. Each auxiliary matching target has a first face 62, visible in FIG. 1, and a second face 64, visible in FIG. 2. These faces define additional matching target areas. Each auxiliary matching target is associated with a different integer from 1-10, and thus associated with one of the groups game pieces. The first face 62 of each auxiliary matching targets has a set of marks, the number of marks in such set being equal to the integer associated with the particular matching target. The second face 64 of each auxiliary matching target has a numeral denoting the integer associated with that particular auxiliary matching target. For example, a first auxiliary matching target 66 has one mark 63 on its first face and the numeral "1" on its second face 64a. A second auxiliary matching target 68 has a set of two marks 63 on its first face 62 and has the numeral "2" on its second face 64b. This pattern is consistent with all of the auxiliary matching targets 60, up through the tenth auxiliary matching target 70, associated with the number 10. The tenth target 70 has a set of 10 marks 63 on its first face 62c and has the numeral "10" on its second face 64c.
The educational aid according to the embodiment of the invention further includes an additional substrate 72. Additional substrate 72 is a bucket-like hollow container. When the apparatus is not in use, the other elements can be stored within the container 72. A sequence start mark 74 in the form of a "x" or other distinctive indicia is disposed on the outside of the bucket adjacent the rim at one point of the circumference of the rim. A first matching target area 76a is disposed along the rim of the bucket at sequence start mark 74. Nine further matching target areas 76, of which only some are visible in FIG. 1, are disposed around the circumference of the rim. The various matching target areas 76 are all of different colors, the colors of these matching target areas corresponding to the colors of the game pieces in the various groups. Each matching target area 76 thus is associated with the group of game pieces having the same color. The colors of matching target areas 76 are arranged in an order such that the order of the colors of these matching targets corresponds to the numerical order of the numbers of pieces in the groups of game pieces. Thus, the first matching target 76a has the color (white) associated with the group of game pieces having only one game piece; the next matching target area 76b has the color (dark green) associated with the group of game pieces having two game pieces and so on up through the tenth matching target area which has the color (red) associated with the group of game pieces having ten pieces. Additional substrate 72 has directional indicia such as arrows 80 indicating the direction of the order, i.e. the direction toward areas 76 having colors associated with higher-numbered groups of game pieces. Moving around the circumference of the rim from start mark 74 in the counterclockwise direction indicated by arrows 80 in FIG. 1, one encounters matching target areas having various colors, in the order in which those colors are set forth in table 1 (above).
Completing the educational aid are a collection of instructional cards (not shown) to be used by the teacher. These cards instruct the teacher in the educational method explained in the following paragraphs. Additionally, these cards may contain suggestions as to further expansions of the educational method to which the educational aid can be put.
In one educational method according to the invention, the child first is allowed to simply play with the game pieces and familiarize himself or herself with them. Next, the child is asked to attach one game piece (of any group) onto each of the matching target areas 76 of additional substrate 72. In this step, the child is asked to start at the sequence start mark 74 and proceed in a predetermined direction, desirably the predetermined direction indicated by arrows 80. The child is instructed simply to apply one game piece to each matching target area which he encounters, without regard to any particular colors or selection of any particular game pieces or areas. The child clips each game piece to the rim of the additional substrate 72 so that the gripping action of the spring 34 and jaws 30 and 32 of the game piece holds the game piece to the additional substrates as shown in FIG. 3. This step trains the child in the most rudimentary concept of starting a sequence and continuing through that sequence. In addition, this progression, a left to right progression, also emphasizes directionality for reading and instills the habit of beginning at the left and moving to the right. In the next step, the child is asked to perform the same operations again, but this time using particular game pieces which match the particular colors of the matching target areas. This stage of instructions builds upon the rudimentary concept of performing operations in sequence, and adds the concept of matching game pieces to the target areas. As the matching is based upon color, it requires only very low level abstract reasoning processes.
In a further step of the educational method, the substrate 38 is placed on a flat surface such as the floor or a table, with the second, unmarked surface (not shown) facing up. The teacher places the game pieces 20 in the first five groups of game pieces 22, 24, 26, 29, and 31, having 1 through 5 game pieces in each group, on this unmarked surface of substrate 38. The teacher mixes the game pieces in these various groups together, and asks the child to categorize them into groups or "families" according to their colors. Once the child has done this, the teacher asks the child to identify the smallest group and the teacher places that group at the top left hand corner of the substrate. The teacher then asks the child to identify the next larger group, and once that has been identified the teacher places it immediately to the right of the smallest group. This process continues until all five groups have been identified by the child. The same process may be repeated, but this time the child is asked to identify the largest group, containing the most game pieces, and the process proceeds in reverse sequence until the smallest group is reached. In a further step, the child is again asked to separate the game pieces in the first five groups into the individual groups according to colors, but this time the child is now asked to place the groups in order, such as from smallest group to largest group, on the second or unmarked side of substrate 38.
Once the child has arranged the game pieces into these five ordered groups, the child is provided with the auxiliary matching targets 60 associated with the numbers one through five. The first face 62 of each matching target is exposed in this stage, so that the sets of marks 63 on these auxiliary matching targets are visible. The child is then asked to match the auxiliary matching targets with the groups by finding the matching target having the right number of marks for each group. Thus, the child associates the one game piece in group 22 with the first auxiliary matching piece 66; the two game pieces in group 24 with the second matching piece 68 and so on. The child attaches the matching pieces in each group to the auxiliary matching piece by operating the jaws 30 and 32 of the particular game piece, so as to clip the game piece to the periphery of the auxiliary matching piece as illustrated in FIG. 4. The game pieces attached to the auxiliary matching targets do not obscure the marks 63 on the first face of each auxiliary matching targets. In associating the groups of game pieces with the auxiliary matching targets, the child utilizes a somewhat higher level of abstraction than that employed in color matching. Thus, the child is matching groups of game pieces to auxiliary matching pieces by counting and by determining that the count for the group matches the count for the marks. This is known in the education field as "one-to-one correspondence."
After the game pieces have been attached to the auxiliary matching targets, the assemblies are then used in a further instructional step. The child is given one of the auxiliary matching pieces with the attached game pieces and then asked to count the marks 63 aloud, and to count the number of game pieces aloud. Once the child has done this, the auxiliary matching piece is inverted to show the numeral on the second side, as illustrated in FIG. 5. This effectively communicates to the child the correspondence between the number he has just observed in counting and the numeral.
In a further step of the method, the child utilizes the same five auxiliary matching pieces associated with numbers one through five. The substrate 38 is placed with the first surface 40 facing up as shown in FIG. 5. The child matches the marks 63 on the first surface of each auxiliary matching piece (FIG. 4) with the marks 42 in each of the first 5 matching target areas on substrate 38. The child starts with the first matching target area 44 (FIG. 1) and moves in the predetermined direction of the order indicated by the arrows 57 so that the child encounters matching target areas having progressively larger numbers of marks. As the child matches a particular auxiliary matching piece 60 to one of the matching target areas on the substrate, he or she places the auxiliary matching piece with its second or numeral-bearing face up on the particular matching target area of the substrate, so that each auxiliary target rests upon that matching target area and overlies the marks on the matching target area. This step reinforces the association between numbers of marks and numerals.
In a further step of the method, the child again sorts the game pieces into groups and again attaches the game pieces in each group to the periphery of the appropriate auxiliary matching target as shown in FIGS. 4 and 5. At this point, the child again matches the auxiliary matching target, with attached game pieces to the matching target area on the first surface 40 of the substrate 38, while the numeral or second face of each auxiliary matching target is face up. In this case, the matching between the auxiliary matching target and the number of marks on each matching target area of the substrate may involve matching the count of game pieces attached to a particular auxiliary matching piece with the number of marks in each set. It may also involve an even higher level of abstraction, viz. Matching the numeral to the number of marks in the set. If desired, the method may include operations wherein the child is asked to match a group of game pieces to an auxiliary matching target using only the numeral, without reference to the set of marks on the matching target. Also, the child may match each auxiliary matching target to a matching target area on substrate 38 with the numeral or second face of the auxiliary matching target face up, without any game pieces as shown in FIG. 6.
If the child has mastered the operations discussed above for the first five groups, with one through five game pieces, the same operations may be repeated using the groups of game pieces and auxiliary matching targets associated with the numbers from six through ten. Once the child has mastered these operations with the higher numbered groups, the same operations can be repeated once again using all of the game pieces and all of the auxiliary matching pieces at once, so that each task involves all numbers from one through ten.
As will be appreciated, the foregoing method takes the child from the simplest concepts of play and color matching through a full understanding of the correspondence between the numerals and the quantities designated by numerals. At the same time, it provides enough varied activities for the child so that the child does not lose interest. Each time the child participates, he or she receives a new experience, different from the earlier steps of the method. Thus, the education aid and educational method according to the invention provide an enjoyable experience for the child which will hold the child's attention. This experience may be enhanced by the decorations on the educational aid. As aforementioned, each of the game pieces desirably is arranged to look like a small animal or "creature". The substrate may be decorated on both sides to resemble a forest or lake in which the creatures reside, whereas the auxiliary matching pieces may be explained to the children as being "islands" upon which the creatures can rest.
Numerous variations and combinations of the features discussed above can be utilized without departing from the present invention as defined by the claims. For example, many different devices can be used to permit attachment of the game pieces to the substrate and/or auxiliary matching pieces. Thus the additional substrate 72 could be provided with snaps or hooks, or other fasteners and the auxiliary matching pieces 60 could likewise be provided with fasteners, and each game piece 20 could be provided with a complimentary fastener to engage the fastener on the substrate or auxiliary matching piece. Magnets can be incorporated in the various elements of the apparatus to permit selective assembly and disassembly. Although the substrate has been illustrated in the preferred embodiment as a flat, sheet-like structure, this configuration is not essential. Merely by way of example, the substrate may comprise an elongated string or rod having various matching target areas disposed along its length, desirably in the order of the associated numbers. In this case, the matching target areas and/or the auxiliary matching targets can be provided with devices to hold the auxiliary match targets to the substrate. In yet another variant, the additional substrate 72 could be provided with sets of marks similar to those provided on the surface 40 of principal substrate 38, and the play could be conducted on that substrate. The instructional cards provided to the teacher may suggest additive uses for the game pieces such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and patterning (an instructional method used to teach the recognition of formations). For example, the teacher may be instructed to prepare cards on which are written simple mathematical equations or color or letter phrases of various levels of difficulty. The child then uses the manipulatives 20 to work through the mathematical equations or match the colors of the game pieces to the color or letter phrases. These activities may be conducted on the second (unmarked) face of substrate 38. As these and other variants may be employed without departing from the invention, the foregoing description of the preferred embodiments should be taken by way of illustration rather than by way of limitation of the present invention as defined by the claims.
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|U.S. Classification||434/205, 434/200, 434/207|
|International Classification||G09B3/00, G09B19/02, G09B1/16|
|Cooperative Classification||G09B1/16, G09B19/02, G09B3/00|
|European Classification||G09B1/16, G09B3/00, G09B19/02|
|Nov 9, 1993||CC||Certificate of correction|
|May 31, 1996||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 4
|Jun 27, 2000||REMI||Maintenance fee reminder mailed|
|Dec 3, 2000||LAPS||Lapse for failure to pay maintenance fees|
|Feb 6, 2001||FP||Expired due to failure to pay maintenance fee|
Effective date: 20001201